Friday, 31 July 2009

Foundation stone laid today!

Yesterday saw the true beginning of our hospital, with the laying of the foundation stone at the site and a celebration afterwards. And even though many of our followers are based in India, I shall write from an English person's perspective today, because I know that many of our overseas readers will be as ignorant as me in terms of the Indian traditions that were followed. This gives me the chance to tell all of you what actually happened at the ceremony.

First there was a "puja" (prayer ceremony) delivered by the pundits, who you will see in the photographs here. But you should know that Dr Meetu Babel had spent many hours earlier in the weeks gathering together all the items that the pundits needed for this ceremony. The original list read like a shopping list for the larder, with items like herbs, milk, yoghurt fruit, honey, but it was the extra items like cow's urine that made this list surprising!

At the appointed time, the puja began, with the pundits chanting prayers and telling Deepak and Meetu when to scatter various items including rice, rose petals and water onto the prayer table in front of them. (The top picture shows Deepak and me with pundits before the ceremony).

Then came the blessing of the five stones (above right) with various offerings and we were then asked to climb down into the large pit that had been prepared, so that a further ceremony could be performed to prepare to lay the foundation stone. Deepak and I are pictured below in the pit with the pundits, and at appropriate moments in the ceremony the five stones were passed down to bottom of the pit and placed on top of a concoction of milk, curd, grass and, most importantly, a token representing the Hindu Snake God - "Naag Devta".
All the invited guests were present for the ceremony and when it was over, I planted a tree to commemorate my father. Afterwards we went to the village temple for lunch. But more of this tomorrow, because I am leaving on an overnight train for Delhi shortly to meet my son Hamish who's arriving from Nepal.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Digging a huge hole for tomorrow!!

On Tuesday morning I arrived in India from the UK, albeit at an ungodly hour and caught a connecting flight to Udaipur, where I was met by Deepak - a wonderful smiling face after such a long journey! And now I am ensconced with the Babel family here.
Yesterday we visited the hospital site and it is quite changed from last time I was here because the monsoon has brought greenery to where there was only mud before. In fact, the whole city is now looking refreshed and on the way here in the plane, it was amazing to see the verdant landscape below and the huge rushing rivers which had flooded into the surrounding plains, to create huge pools of water in areas that I have only ever seen looking parched.
We went to Lio Ka Guda, Bari - the village where we'll be building the hospital - with Deepak and his father - Dr Chandra Babel - who is also a doctor (Deepak pictured left below) and his father on the right), working with the contractor to decide how far from the boundary wall, the building should be sited.
The placing of the foundation stone is critical in India and it took the help of the pundit to determine where exactly the stone should go. Yesterday and today men were at work digging the hole for the stone and you will see below the work in progress - by tomorrow, we will be ready for the official ceremony with the pundit. I am told that this involves both Deepak and me getting down into the hole with him and judging by the work in progress as we left today, this is going to be quite a challenge for me, since the hole was getting deeper by the minute! It also has some bearing on what I shall wear tomorrow!
While the digging was going on, the lawnmowers arrived (see top picture and below), because the site is currently covered in grass and we need to make space for all the guests attending!
And while Deepak and I have been inspecting holes in the ground, his wife, Dr Meetu Babel has been busy preparing the list of items required for the pundit for tomorrow's ceremony - this is no mean feat since the number of items is enormous and the variety is extraordinary, ranging from different foodstaffs to special ribbon and robe, talcum powder, herbs, spices and cow dung to name just a few. But I will be able to tell you more of this tomorrow when I finally get to inspect the every-growing assortment of items arriving here all the time.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Let's sow the seeds of change!

Today is my last day in England. I leave for Delhi tomorrow and will be in Udaipur by Wednesday afternoon. The foundation stone ceremony takes place this coming Friday, and I will be updating the blog regularly from India, particularly after the celebrations to mark the laying of the foundation stone.

Thank you all for your support to date - we hope you'll continue to drop in on us, because now the blog will be becoming much more active, with pictures and many updates as building work on the hospital commences.

Hamish, who many of you already know, arrives in India next Sunday and will be joining me in Udaipur. Sadly he cannot be there for Friday's ceremony as he is currently in Tibet, making his way to Delhi via Kathmandhu. But we spoke on the phone yesterday and he too is looking forward to seeing the site of our planned hospital, and to meeting Deepak and all the other people who are working so hard in India to make this project work. We are also being joined by another English friend of Hamish's, who wants to work with us on the project, so I hope that all our UK fans will watch this space!

I know that both Deepak and I feel the same way about the distance we have come in such a short time, and now that building can commence, we are starting to fulfill a dream that my father was also part of in the last few months of his life. Indeed, none of this would have been possible without Paul, because he gave me the motivation to go ahead with this project. Deepak has also given most of his spare time to putting arrangements in place and I have just been busy fund-raising and for that I must thank my donors to date.

We must also thank my husband, Vivian, because although at the time, we could not see the silver lining to the huge cloud that enveloped us, it was his illness in India last November that brought all of us together for this project.

For any of you that already know my gardening blog, you'll know that my personal motto is "Let's Sow the Seeds of Change" and that's what we're hoping to do in rural Rajasthan.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Foundation stone to be laid on July 31

All our Facebook followers will recently have received an invitation to the laying of the foundation stone for the hospital on July 31st in India. I know that our European followers are unlikely to be able to attend, but we will be covering this on the blog, and both my son - Hamish - and I are travelling out from the UK to be there, so for those of you who know either one of us (or in many cases, both), you may want to keep an eye on Facebook around that date!

Please don't think that we are being idle in between updates. Deepak is incredibly hard at work in Rajasthan making all the necessary arrangements for work to begin on building, including the supply of water and electricity to the plot. Meanwhile, Hamish and I are busy fund-raising in the UK and I have also been in the US recently, doing the same.

We are making progress on all fronts, and although this has been somewhat hampered in the UK this last week by temperatures reminiscent of Rajasthan, we are really pleased to see that the numbers of fans are increasing all over the world. And of course, we are grateful for your support, because we believe that if people are actively engaged in this project - by following - that it will create a lot of positive energy for the future.

If any of you have thoughts or ideas to help us with our fund-raising, we would be extremely grateful. But in the meantime, best wishes from all of us and we will keep posting you on our progress.